Lines Show Promise Against Hessian Fly
By Linda Cooke
September 11, 1997
MANHATTAN, Kan., Sept. 11--Two of the top Texas wheat breeding lines
have resistance to the Hessian fly, U.S.
Department of Agriculture scientists have found. One of the lines has two
added bonuses: It's high-yielding and resists leaf rust, the major disease of
wheat across the Great Plains' breadbasket.
The new-found resistance comes at a good time. After more than 200 years in
the United States, the Hessian fly--notorious for damage to wheat in the
central Plains states--was found this year for the first time in west-central
"If the breeding lines continue to show high yield potential and have
other desirable traits, it may mean that new resistant varieties could be
available to Texas wheat growers within five years," said Jimmy H.
Hatchett, an entomologist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service here.
Until then, he said, some growers may want to consider available varieties
such as 2180, 2163, 2165, 2157, and Pecos. Hatchett found them to be resistant
to the fly in west-central Texas, as well as in Kansas. "Using these
varieties in the outbreak area should reduce infestations," he said.
"But farmers need to weigh their other characteristics such as disease
resistance and yield ability.
"Part of the problem is that many west-central Texas growers plant
their wheat early in the fall to establish good stands for livestock grazing
during the winter," Hatchett continued. "This practice provides a
near year-round smorgasbord for Hessian flies."
From Hatchett's base in the Plant
Science and Entomology Research Unit at Kansas State University, he has
tracked the Hessian fly in the U.S. for more than 30 years. As leader of ARS'
Hessian fly project, he has collaborated with wheat breeders in Kansas,
Nebraska and South Dakota in developing varieties resistant to the insect.
Until now, Texas wheat breeders didn't need to select wheat lines resistant
to the Hessian fly because it wasn't considered a serious threat to Texas wheat
production. Hatchett believes the fly has been in west-central Texas for some
time and populations have just now reached outbreak levels.
A Texas A&M Agricultural Extension Service agent estimates the Hessian
fly in McCulloch County alone caused some damage to 95 percent of its 48,000
wheat acres. For wheat producers in this county, the economic impact of the fly
resulted in a $2.45 million loss in grain yields.
Chemical treatment for Hessian fly is expensive. Over the years, the main
defense against this wheat-hungry pest has been the development and use of
resistant wheat varieties. Until new, improved resistant varieties for the
region are developed, Texas wheat- livestock producers are advised to make a
few changes: plant wheat later in the season, rotate wheat with another crop
and control volunteer wheat (plants that sprout up on their own).
Meanwhile, researchers are identifying new resistance genes that can be used
in Texas wheat breeding programs. Their goal is to build an arsenal of
resistant varieties for Texas producers to use in the future, wherever the
Hessian fly decides to show up next.
Scientific contact: J. H. Hatchett, ARS-USDA, Plant Science and
Entomology Research Unit, Kansas State University, Waters Hall, Manhattan, KS,
66506; phone: (785) 532-4719, fax (785) 532-6232,